Before making a pledge, accountants should think about whether it should be made in the first place.
Keeping our promises is fundamental in business and in society. Promises create moral obligations, but unlike other moral obligations, such as not to harm others, promises are voluntary.
They arise when we make them and do not exist if we do not.
Organisations make numerous promises to all their stakeholders. For example, they make promises to their potential employees during recruitment about what kind of an organisation they are, and what sort of a work environment they provide.
They make promises to their clients about their products and services, as well as how they will conduct themselves in their relationships with them.
But what promises do CPA Australia members make?
Being a CPA Australia member is making the promise to behave competently and ethically. The CPA Australia emblem, apart from our name, has one other word: integrity.
This is a kind of promise made to clients and society in general and sets behavioural expectations.
Similarly, our code, APES 110 Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants, communicates our shared principles to members of the accounting profession and provides the framework for resolving ethical conflicts.
But it is also about communicating promises, setting expectations about how members will behave and what they will do.
Keeping promises is not only about fulfilling the moral obligations we impose on ourselves; it is also important for building and maintaining trust, something of fundamental importance to the profession.
We should not make promises we cannot keep, and ensure that we make informed promises. We also should not make promises against our ethical values. A promise to make a false claim, for example, is a promise that should not be made.
We also need to be mindful of the promises we make, not only when we say “I will do X”, but by being a member of the accounting profession and CPA Australia.
And keep the promises we make.
Dr Eva Tsahuridu is CPA Australia’s policy adviser, professional standards and governance.
This article is from the September 2014 issue of INTHEBLACK.